May- June  2021 Vol.16 No.3

Access to important resources and documents on MHPSS at PAHO´s website
Protecting mental health and providing psychosocial support is a priority in situations of public health emergencies, disasters, conflicts and migration phenomena. These have an impact on the population's physical and mental health, as well as on health professionals, which in turn affect the people they serve.

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Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS): Remote community of practice
According to PAHO/WHO survey on the continuity of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic (January-March 2021), out of 27 countries in the Americas, 60% reported interruptions in services to address mental health-related illnesses. To bridge this gap in care, many countries in the Region have implemented remote care services.

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Completion of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Virtual Course December 2020 to May 2021
Humanitarian emergencies such as outbreaks and socio-environmental disasters can significantly affect the mental health and psychosocial well-being of an individual, child or adult, and particularly of groups in situation of vulnerability.

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Cuba - Comprehensive care strategy to address COVID-19

Cuban guarantees comprehensive and integrated health care to the population and has prioritized addressing the health emergency caused by COVID-19 through the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), by implementing a Government National Plan with effective measures to minimize risks and vulnerabilities and increasing the role of different social actors.

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Lessons for Alcohol Policy from the Coronavirus Crisis

This World Health Assembly side event webinar, held on May 27, was co-organized by PAHO, the WHO EURO office and Movendi International, to present and discuss that evidence-based alcohol policy interventions are impactful in protecting people and promoting the functioning of health systems, but that there is also simultaneous interference from the alcohol industry to exploit the pandemic for commercial benefits.

Dr. Maristela Monteiro, from PAHO’S Mental Health and Substance Use Unit -NMH/MH- presented issues related to alcohol consumption, harm and policy in the Region, as well as lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar supported actions on how to better cope with the crisis by highlighting the need to address alcohol harm, the role of prevention and control, and short-term measures to reinstate alcohol policies that were loosened during the pandemic.

To watch the video recording of the event on YouTube: click here.

The impact of COVID-19 on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs research

This webinar, held on April 30, was the first in a series of four regarding COVID-19 and Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD). The webinar series is being hosted by the International Confederation of ATOD Research Associations (ICARA) in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg. The series was aimed at researchers, practitioners and policy makers with an interest in alcohol and other drug use problems. The Pan American Health Organization was invited to participate at the first webinar of the series. In their presentation, Dr. Maristela Monteiro, PAHO’S Senior Advisor on Alcohol, and Ms. Jacqueline MacDiarmid, PAHO Consultant, highlighted the shift observed in alcohol policy and research in the Americas Region throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The links to access the recording will be available on PAHO’s website.

Third Technical Advisory Group on Alcohol Policy meeting

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Alcohol Policy convened virtually on June 10-11, to provide guidance and support to the work of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in the area of alcohol policy and interventions, as well as to provide recommendations aimed at strengthening technical cooperation with Member States. During this meeting TAG members made recommendations in five key areas: 1) review of TAG activities and previous recommendations; 2) monitoring and surveillance of alcohol policies and plans; 3) Regional Alcohol Action Plan and global developments; 4) new and ongoing PAHO activities; and 5) political commitment, inter-programmatic collaboration and partnerships. The development of a meeting report is currently underway.

One in 100 deaths is by suicide 
Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to WHO’s latest estimates, published today in “Suicide worldwide in 2019”. Every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer - or war and homicide.  In 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.

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To support countries in their efforts, WHO has released a comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are:

  • limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms;
  • educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide;
  • fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and
  • early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA, can be used by anyone who is in interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at national or local level, and in the governmental and nongovernmental sectors alike. “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments,” said Dr. Alexandra Fleischmann, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organization, “starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”

Related links on Suicide

  1. Suicide in the world in 2019: Global health estimates
  2. LIVE LIFE: an implementation guide for suicide prevention
  3. More on suicide prevention
  4. Suicide: Fact sheet


Editorial Committee: Renato Oliveira, Maristela Monteiro, Claudina Cayetano, Luis Alfonzo, Antony Duttine, Carmen Martínez, Amy Tausch and Martha Koev. 

PAHO’s Mental Health Bulletin is published bimonthly in English and Spanish.

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